The effects of permissive parenting

Permissive parenting is a parenting style characterized by a high level of responsiveness while placing few demands on the child. It is one of the parenting styles described by clinical and developmental psychologist, Blumberg Baumrind and it is sometimes referred to as indulgent parenting.

One of the characteristics of the permissive parenting style is that the parents will be very nurturing and loving towards their child. The child might see the parents as being more friend than parent. The parents will impose few rules or standards for the child’s behavior. These few rules, or lack thereof, might bring the parents to a situation where they are unable to exercise authority, resulting in instances of bribery where the parent gives the child toys or food to get them to comply to certain rules. Permissive parents are emotionally supportive and responsive to their children, often consulting them before making decisions that might affect them in one way or the other.

Instead of giving the children many responsibilities and making them meet their own behavioral standards, permissive parents allow their children to regulate themselves. The aim would be to stimulate the children to be responsible for and in control of their own actions. The parents have relatively low expectations of self-control and maturity from their children but rather let them learn, grow and mature at their own pace, without their direct control.

As for how they present themselves to their children, they avoid exercising overt power (that is, making the children see and feel their authority in an open and clearly observable way). Their approach suggests subtle power, where their power and authority is slightly noticed and oftentimes difficult to grasp at the surface.

Studies have linked parenting styles to child development outcomes and it is worth stating the effects of permissive parenting on child outcome. Some research supports the idea that children raised by permissive parents tend to be less responsible and develop less self-discipline than those raised by authoritative parents. The children might indulge in dangerous behavior such as drug abuse. They commonly have poor social skills and may be absorbed primarily in their own interests and are demanding. Some may have problems brought forth by the lack of guidance, such as having difficulty submitting to authority.

Permissive parents and their children are more attached and emotionally close and this might be beneficial to some children, as it can give the children confidence to share problems and challenges with their parents, with enough room to be themselves and learn to be responsible. The children might actually welcome this parenting style as it gives them a sense of freedom and independence.

Exceptions exist, however, and some studies provide evidence of no major differences between children raised by permissive parents and authoritative parents for example. In most cases, however, children with permissive parents are emotionally better off than those with uninvolved parents. These observations and studies are not black and white, but they give a guideline to the effects of a certain parenting style on children.